"Ecosystem" is a term that's often used to describe a wide variety of business arrangements, and like many business buzzwords, it means a lot of things to a lot of people. Some months back we came across a good post on LinkedIn expressing the author's own definition of the topic, and it's an excellent starting point. However, one area worth exploring further is exactly how business ecosystems differ from other business partnerships, and the impact this makes on strategic thinking. So, let's talk a bit about how ecosystem thinking can change how a business views its partners and its market.
Ecosystems are fundamentally collaborative
Traditionally, capitalistic business is looked at in terms of competition, but ecosystems challenge this notion. An ecosystem is fundamentally collaborative and based on the idea that businesses in different fields can work together and synergize for greater collective gains. The automotive example in the article is a fine illustration: If a respected car manufacturer chooses a well-known parts supplier for its components, and actively markets the collaboration, it increases public perception and mindshare for both parties.
Or, for that matter, I'm personally writing this article on a laptop with several different stickers on the case advertising various collaborators. Intel inside! Graphics by Nvidia! Sound by JBL! This is a critical element of ecosystems: every participant gets credit and shares in the glory of (hopefully) a good product.
Ecosystems include the customers
The article defines ecosystems solely in terms of businesses seeking to increase customers and sales, but we take a broader view: an ecosystem-based view should explicitly include the customers as being part of the ecosystem. After all, if you were describing a natural wildlife ecosystem, it would be silly to exclude plants from the discussion. Every living thing in a natural ecosystem contributes to the whole, and the same is true for business ecosystem.
And in business ecosystems, the customers are much more active participants than plants in nature. Customers can be advocates and evangelists. Customers can become sources of product information or technical advice. Community-run forums are often a highly popular alternative to official sources. Sometimes customers even convert into paid technicians or support staff, especially in 'gig economy' situations. Customers may be the target, but they're also participants in the ecosystem.
Ecosystems thrive on data-sharing
This is perhaps the key operational difference between ecosystems and mere supply-chain partnerships. A good ecosystem has systems in place where critical business information is shared between the participants. Obviously, this doesn't mean simply throwing the floodgates open - security still matters. But in general, the trend is towards being as open about data as is reasonably feasible, under the theory that more access to information will improve the ability of each member of the ecosystem to effectively contribute.
The best ecosystems have robust information-sharing and collaborative tools in place. These allow participants to share their own perspectives, learn from each other, and hopefully gain greater understanding of the market and the customers. Good business decisions are made on the foundation of facts and data, and good ecosystems enable this.
LogicBay Provides Tools And Expertise For Growing Ecosystems
For over a decade, we've specialized in helping businesses take diverse partnerships and investments, and turn them into tightly-tuned ecosystems capable of agile responses to new challenges. We've helped numerous high successful businesses become even better, and we can do the same for your growing operation.